Distance estimation experiment for aerial minke whale surveys
AbstractA comparative study between aerial cue–counting and digital photography surveys for minke whales conducted in Faxaﬂói Bay in September 2003 is used to check the perpendicular distances estimated by the cue-counting observers. The study involved 2 aircraft with the photo plane at 1,700 feet flying above the cue–counting plane at 750 feet. The observer–based distance estimates were calculated from head angles estimated by angle-boards and declination angles estimated by declinometers. These distances were checked against image–based estimates of the perpendicular distance to the same whale. The 2 independent distance estimates were obtained for 21 sightings of minke whale, and there was a good agreement between the 2 types of estimates. The relative absolute deviations between the 2 estimates were on average 23% (se: 6%), with the errors in the observer–based distance estimates resembling that of a log-normal distribution. The linear regression of the observer–based estimates (obs) on the image–based estimates (img) was Obs=1.1Img (R2=0.85) with an intercept ﬁxed at zero. There was no evidence of a distance estimation bias that could generate a positive bias in the absolute abundance estimated by cue–counting.
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